[Met Performance] CID:158820
Götterdämmerung {175} Metropolitan Opera House: 02/1/1952.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
February 1, 1952


GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG {175}

Brünnhilde..............Margaret Harshaw
Siegfried...............Set Svanholm
Gunther.................Paul Schöffler
Gutrune.................Irene Jessner [Last performance]
Hagen...................Dezsö Ernster
Waltraute...............Elisabeth Höngen
Alberich................Alois Pernerstorfer
First Norn..............Jean Madeira
Second Norn.............Martha Lipton
Third Norn..............Lucine Amara
Woglinde................Paula Lenchner
Wellgunde...............Lucine Amara
Flosshilde..............Hertha Glaz
Vassal..................Emery Darcy
Vassal..................Osie Hawkins

Conductor...............Fritz Stiedry


Review of Quaintance Eaton in Musical America

A new Brünnhilde brought fresh interest to the fifth and last performance of "Götterdärnmerung" this season, and won honors in her own right as a genuine dramatic soprano of abundant present achievements and potentialities for real distinction. The transmutation of a contralto or mezzo-soprano voice into the soprano range is seldom accomplished with success, but Margaret Harshaw seems to have done it. The singer, who made her debut in 1942 as a Norn in this same opera, and who advanced to leading mezzo-soprano roles in all branches of the repertoire, gave evidence as Senta in "Der Fliegende Hollander" last season that the soprano tessitura was her domain. Now she has re-established her claim. She has sung only the lower-voiced roles so far this season, including appearances as Waltraute and the Third Norn in the first three performances of "Götterdärnmerung," so that her emergence into the higher stratum was the more to her credit. She almost had a chance at Brünnhilde when Astrid Varnay's plane was late on the way to New York to substitute for Helen Traubel on Dec. 17, but Miss Varnay arrived at the last moment and Miss Harshaw sang Waltraute as she had originally been scheduled to do.

Her Brünnhilde was commanding from the first. Her voice showed no remainder of mezzo-soprano timbre, yet was warm and rich in the lower register. It carried its roundness and steadiness to the very top, and was produced easily and flexibly, even in most moments of great stress. Once or twice Miss Harshaw attacked a high note thinly, but then almost instantly infused it with strength and warmth. She progressed in confidence as the scenes wore on, and the immolation scene was her highest vocal achievement. No fatigue or strain was apparent at any time.

Miss Harshaw's impersonation was dignified and restrained in character, although she moved with considerable grace when violent action was required, and an inner tension informed the moments of statuesque immobility. This Brünnhilde rejected Waltraute's plea to give up the ring with scorn rather than with horror and struggled with the disguised Siegfried piteously rather than frantically. The oath on the spear was impressive for its controlled malignance and Brünnhilde's acceptance of Siegfried's doom had fatalistic overtones.

The audience was alert for something new and vital, for at Miss Harshaw's first entrance, spontaneous applause broke out and, contrary to the usual practice at such an outrage of Wagnerian convention, no "shushes" were. heard. The auditorium remained almost full for many moments after the curtain fell and the heroine of the evening received several curtain calls.

There were three other newcomers to the cast. Elisabeth Hoengen sang Waltraute for the first time here, with more sincerity and dramatic force than vocal distinction. Alois Pernerstorfer sang his first Alberich at the Metropolitan and Irene Jessner returned to the company to sing Gutrune.

The remainder of the cast was familiar - Set Svanholm as Siegfried, Paul Schoeffler as Gunther and Dezso Ernster as Hagen. Mr. Svanholm was in fine voice, and improved his acting in the first scene of the third act by modifying his hitherto too exuberant gestures of welcome to the vassals as they entered with trophies of the hunt. In other roles were Lucine Amara, Paula Lenchner, Herta Glaz, Jean Madeira, Martha Lipton, Emery Darcy and Osie Hawkins.

It was an unusually lively performance, finishing a full quarter-hour before midnight, for Fritz Stiedry conducted spiritedly, allowing no dragging.



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